The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Friday, Dec. 2, 1886

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Brave Sailors Perish - Terrible Sufferings of the Survivors - A Truthful and Thrilling Story of the Loss of the Schooner Ariadne - How Three Seamen Died - Heroic Work of the Life Savers - One of the Crews tells the "Palladium All About the Wreck - Kind Hearted Farmers.

The most heartrending story of hardship and suffering attending shipwreck on the lakes that has been told in a long time is given by the survivors of the ill-fated schooner Ariadne, of Toronto, wrecked in Mexico Bay on Wednesday night. A Palladium man was detailed to go to the wreck last night, and an adventuresome trip he had.

Leaving the train at Pierrepont Manor at 9 o'clock in the evening, he took a rig and started for the scene of the disaster, twelve miles away, with a fierce wind and blinding snow storm to face the entire distance. The snow drifted badly in places and it was with the utmost difficulty that the cutter would be kept right side up. Arriving at Woodville it was learned that the sailors saved from the wreck were at the farm house of John A. Whitney, about a mile from the lake.

The home was reached shortly after midnight. The seamen were snugly tucked in bed, but were suffering greatly and it was impossible for them to give an account of their experience until 8 o'clock this morning, when Thomas Cox, one of the survivors, told the following thrilling story:

"Our crew consisted of Captain Hugh McKay of Toronto; Southerland McKay, father of the Captain, and mate, also of Toronto; Charles Dean of Shannonville, Ont.; Edward Mulligan of Picton, Ont.; Maurice Young of Toronto; Thos. Cox of Toronto. We left Oswego on November 18th to load barley at Shannonville, Ont., and Bath, Ont., for Oswego. We left Bath a week ago today, Nov. 26, for Oswego with a cargo of ten thousand bushels.

"We got well out into the lake when we found a big sea running and were forced to run for South Bay Point for shelter. We remained there until Monday when we tried it again. It began to freeze hard when we got out in the lake and we were again driven back. On Tuesday morning we made the last start. The morning was beautiful and we were congratulating ourselves on having a splendid run. After getting out twenty miles it came on to snow and got very thick. We first saw Oswego light about 6 o'clock p.m., but only for a moment. We were then below the harbor, and the wind was fresh from the westward. The next we saw of Oswego light was about 8 o'clock. We were standing off and on, but the wind freshened to a gale and the sea made very rapidly.

"We could hear the tugs whistling for us and could see the rockets sent up by the life crew. We made every effort to work to the windward and at one time were so near the harbor that we could see the breakwater. We saw that we couldn't fetch the harbor that stretch and we came in stays and stood out. On the next tack we found that we had lost ground. When we came about, our jib was blown away. Then our real began. We had to wear the vessel to get her before the wind and then discovered that she had three feet of water in the hold.

"We knocked out the bulwarks to prevent the vessel floundering. Our pumps were frozen solid and the schooner started for Stony Passage. We were unable to steer, owing to the water in the hold and the vessel jibed several times in spite of all we could do The first time, the main boom was carried away and then the sail was blown to ribbons. Then the fore-gaff was carried away and we were left entirely helpless.

"We were then well down the lake and could see Stony Point Light. The vessel was nearly full of water and to prevent foundering, we headed for the beach. We struck first about 2:30 p.m. on a reef three quarters of a mile from shore called 'Drowned Island.' We pounded on the reef until 5:30 o'clock in the morning when the vessel slipped off and pounded along toward shore, bringing up about 200 yards from the beach. The tremendous waves raked the vessel fore and aft. When we first struck the reef the crew ran into the cabin and fastened it tightly.

"We remained there until 6 o'clock when a big sea washed the top of the cabin off and we climbed into the main rigging. Every rope was covered with three inches of ice and we had been wet to the skin since 8 o'clock the night previous. Our clothes froze quickly, and the spray coated us heavily with ice. While we were in the main rigging the mainmast was carried away, but fell against the foremast. All except the Captain got out of the tangle and by a great effort got up into the fore-rigging. The Captain remained aft and a big wave swept him into the lake. He grabbed a plank as he went over, but soon sank.

"The vessel began to break up rapidly and we thought the foremast was going to fall, so we climbed down out of the rigging and huddled together on the bow. The bow and about ten feet of the deck remained above water, but every sea went clean over it. It was every man for himself. Half drowned and nearly frozen we clung to the deck. About 8 o'clock in the morning Charles Dean was frozen to death at our feet. He sank to the deck and we had not the strength to do anything for him. He spoke the name of his wife at the last and said, 'God have mercy on my soul.' His body was froze solidly to the deck.

"Two hours afterwards the Captain's father, who is 68 years old, began to give up. he died hard and it was the worst sight I ever saw. He first became blind and then deaf and raved at times like a maniac. Just before he became quiet he turned his face up and said: 'Tell my poor wife how I died, and that my last thoughts were of her." The last word he spoke was the name of his wife. His body also froze close to our feet. The rest of us gave up two or three times and once I got a plank to endeavor to swim ashore. A big wave came over the wreck that nearly knocked the breath out of me and I lost the plank. About noon we were badly frozen and completely exhausted. We could see the people making signs to us from the shore and about 3 o'clock we saw the life boat coming. At 3:30 they reached the wreck. Mulligan was insensible and would have died in ten minutes. That is all I can tell you, except we lost everything but the clothing we wore."

The sailors could not tell much about the rescue. They had no clear recollection of what took place during the last hours of their terrible experience. It was heroic work however. The vessel was first sighted from the shore about 8 o'clock in the morning by Bert Hubbard and Marshall Forbes, boys on their way to school. They told some nearby neighbors and these mounted their horses and spread the news, and every man for miles around hurried for the beach to render assistance, if possible.

Among the first to arrive were John A. Whitney, Albert Whitney, John Mathews, Barney Hubbard, Henry Harris and Pryor Scott. Nothing but the bow of the schooner could be seen when the reached the shore. Captain William A. Jenkins, who owns the little schooner Fiat, carried the news to the life saving station, six miles away. He also worked heroically to save the unfortunate men, accompanying the life crew to the vessel in their boat. The life crew left the station with their boat loaded on a wagon at 1 o'clock p.m. They hauled the heavy load two miles along the beach when they were met by "Jim" Wood with a team, who had come to draw the wagon. It was a heavy load and the wagon and horses became fearfully loaded with the spray from the breakers. It was 3 o'clock before the boat reached the scene of the wreck, and it was but the work of a moment to push the boat to the water's edge.

The crew jumped into her and a dozen brave men seized the boat and pushed it along out through the big breakers until they were waist deep in the ice cold water. Every sea broke over the little craft and it looked as though she would be smashed to pieces. But on she went, the crew exerting every muscle at the oars. After a hard struggle she reached the wreck. In such a tremendous sea, with the sailors unable to jump and entirely helpless it was no easy matter to get them off. There was nothing to do but let the little boat come against the wreck and there was a great danger of dasher her to pieces.

But the brave men did not hesitate. The boat was lifted up on the crest of a huge wave and hurled toward the vessel with great force. As they came together strong arms grabbed one poor fellow and pulled him into the boat. The boat lurched away, but almost immediately flung broadside against the wreck again. Another sailor was pulled in, and the operation was repeated a third time when the last man was rescued. The life boat was probably ruined. As she neared the beach on the return trip the men again ran into the water and pulled her ashore amid the cheers of two hundred people who faced the storm and ventured to the beach. Mr. Whitney had a sleigh in readiness with plenty of blankets, and the exhausted men were tumbled into it and driven rapidly toward the house.

On their arrival they were stripped of their wet and frozen clothing, the ice was thawed out of their boots and dry clothing substituted. Mulligan was insensible for a long time, but under the skillful treatment of Dr. Chapman of Belleville, he revived finally. The men were wrapped in warm blankets and everything that loving and sympathetic hears could do, was done by Mr. and Mrs. Whitney. They were given a hot supper and put to bed, but it was a long time before sleep came to them. The shivered constantly and suffered much pain.

The Palladium man and Mr. Harrington, who drove him to the scene, helped to care for them the latter part of the night. Poor Mulligan's feet were badly swollen as were also his face and hands. he suffered more severely than the rest, but all arose refreshed this morning and are a hearty breakfast. They wrote letters to their friends and gave them to the report to mail for them, and expected to stay at the wreck until they hear from the Captain's mother. Captain Hugh McKay was a single man, 23 years old and widely known along the lakes. His father leaves a wife and two children in Toronto. Dean leaves a wife in Shannonville.

Mr. Whitney says while the men were in the wreck their appeals for help were pathetic and heartrending and he never again wants to witness such a scene. The men ran about on the beach trying in vain to devise some means to render assistance.

The reporter visited the wreck at five o'clock this morning. Nothing but a piece of bow was visible. A piece of the foremast was still standing and the mainmast was swinging at the side. The bodies of the dead men could not be seen and the beach was too icy to allow one to approach close to the water to see if they were in the surf. The shore for two miles is strewn with wreckage, all covered with ice. The vessel was so completely broken up that a man could lift almost any piece that came ashore. None of the barley was washed ashore. The vessel was fifteen years old and valued by the owners at $3,000. She is not insured. The cargo was consigned to Gaylord, Downey & Company of Oswego.

This is the second time Cox has been wrecked this Fall. he was one of the crew of the schooner Rathburn, wrecked at Goderich in October. he says he would not sail again if he could earn a living on shore. Mulligan says he has made his last trip as a lake sailor. Maurice Young says he will sail again. His parents live in Germany. Dean, as he died, left a message for his children.

The survivors are very grateful to Capt. Fish and the rest of the life crew and all others who aided them. They also wish to thank the Oswego crew for signaling them when off this port Wednesday night.

People who live along the coast near the wreck claim it was a great mistake in locating the life saving crew at Big Sandy. They say that ever wreck in the last 40 years in that vicinity has occurred from four to seven miles north of the station. None have occurred near the station. The wreck of the Ariadne is near where the Cortez was lost.

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Friday, Dec. 2, 1886
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Friday, Dec. 2, 1886